STRUGGLING households can get free cash and grants to help with their bills as the energy price cap rockets by almost £700 today.
A staggering 5 million people are being plunged into fuel poverty today as their energy bills soar.
The new energy price cap came into effect today, April 1, and puts the average annual bill at £1,971.
It's just one in a string of increases hitting households in what's been dubbed "awful April".
From today, families face paying higher council tax, water bills, mobile phone and broadband costs, and more in National Insurance tax.
But those who are struggling may be eligible for extra help.
Grants and hardship funds
Energy suppliers may offer you a grant if you're in debt to your provider and struggling to pay your bill.
British Gas this week announced it is handing out an extra £2million to help customers with their bills as part of the British Gas Energy Trust.
Customers can get from £250 to £750 to pay off energy debts, with the average payout around £550.
To be eligible, you must have less than £1,000 in savings and outstanding debt of between £250 and £750 on an open gas or electricity or duel fuel account.
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If you meet the eligibility criteria and are a British Gas customer can apply online.
Other energy firms also offer hardship grants, but the amounts on offer and application windows vary so it's best to check with your provider.
You'll also need to find out the eligibility criteria to see if your application is likely to be successful.
Here are the other schemes available.
Scottish Power, for example, will wipe up to 40% off eligible customers' debts up to a maximum of £750 per household.
Its hardship fund has no deadline and you can make a claim every three years.
Octopus customers can get cash grants of between £50 and £500. The firm recently doubled its Octo Assist Fund to £5million to help hard-up households.
There is no specific eligibility criteria, but most customers who get help are in arrears on their bill. You can apply on the Octopus website by filling out its financial support form.
The E.on Next Energy Fund can help customers through grants or by replacing an appliance such as a cooker, fridge or washing machine.
The supplier does not say how much you can get, but you'll need to be in financial hardship to be eligible.
You can apply online and will need to provide certain information like your proof of income and a recent meter reading.
Ovo customers can apply for help through its energy fund if they have debt of at least £150 on their account, and an annual household income of £16,190 or less.
The supplier said it works with Citizens Advice to access applications.
You can apply online and should hear back within four to six weeks.
Ovo does not say how much money you can get, but says it will start by offering a one-hour telephone appointment with Citizens Advice to go through your options.
If you're not sure if your energy firm is offering help or whether you are eligible, it is best to contact it directly.
If you are struggling with your bills then there are a number of charities and organisations which may be able to help:
- National Debtline – 0808 808 4000
- Step Change – 0800 138 1111
- Citizens Advice – 0808 800 9060
Other help you can get
Council tax rebate
If your home is in council tax bands A to D then from today you can expect to receive a rebate of £150 on your council tax bill.
You can check which band you're in using the government's website.
If you pay your council tax by Direct Debit, you'll receive the cash automatically.
If you don't, you may have to wait longer to get it.
If you're not in those council tax bands, you could still get help through the Government's £144million discretionary fund.
Local councils will decide who is eligible for the money in their area, and you'll only get a maximum of £150.
The rebate is being given out by the Government as part of its measures to help households cope with soaring bills. The money will not have to be repaid.
Families will also get £200 off their energy bill from October 2022, but this will have to be paid back.
Household Support Fund
The Household Support Fund has now been doubled to £1billion, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in his Spring Statement last month.
The scheme, which first launched in October 2021, aims to help struggling and vulnerable households across the country by awarding help in the form of supermarket vouchers, free cash and more.
Cash is divvied up between local councils, which decide who in their area is eligible to receive help, which form it will take, and how much will be given.
The scheme had been set to end on March 31, but the latest funding injection means it will now be able to continue.
To apply for help, you'll need to check your council's eligibility criteria.
Each council will have a different application process – so exact details on how to apply will vary depending on where you live.
Some local authorities give the help automatically, while in other areas you'll need to apply.
The Government has said a third of the funding will be ring-fenced to support families with children, and another third will be dedicated to pensioners.
Homeowners looking to switch to heat pumps can apply for a grant of up to £5,000 from today.
The environmentally-friendly alternative to a standard boiler is being encouraged by the government, which says it could help cut your gas and electricity bills.
The government plans to ban gas boilers by 2035.
Heat pumps are the main alternative, but have historically been expensive to buy and install.
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a heat pump can cost £6,000 to £8,000.
The £450million Boiler Upgrade Scheme will allow those in England and Wales to get up to £5,000 off the cost of installing a heat pump or biomass boiler.
The scheme will run until the end of March 2025, and it is expected to fund 90,000 installations.
Homeowners will have to pay the difference, if the heat pump they get costs more than the grant they receive.
You can't apply directly – you'll need an MSC-certified installer to claim the grant on your behalf.
MSC is the certification scheme for energy efficiency product installers and you can the nearest ones to you on the MSC website.
Always get a few quotes to compare prices before you commit to work being done.
Warm Home Discount
The warm home discount scheme can get some people £140 towards their bills through the winter.
When you can apply depends on your energy provider, and each year you'll need to wait for your supplier to open its applications.
If your application is successful, the money is usually paid directly to your supplier and applied as a discount to your bill.
Or, if you're on a pre-payment meter, you'll be sent a voucher for the amount.
But the scheme is typically only available from October to March, so those who haven't yet applied for this year's allocation have missed out.
There are two ways you can be eligible for the payment:
- If you get the guarantee credit element of pension credit you'll be in what's called the "core group"
- If you're on a low income and meet your supplier's criteria you'll be in what's referred to as the "broader group".
If you're in the core group of people who get the discount, on July 4, 2021, all of the following must have applied:
- Your energy supplier was part of the scheme
- Your name (or partner’s name) was on the bill
- You were getting the guarantee credit element of pension credit (even if you get savings credit as well)
Winter Fuel Payment
Elderly people can claim up to £300 through the winter fuel payment scheme to help pay their bills.
It's a tax-free benefit that is typically paid automatically to those who are eligible, for example if
you receive the state pension or benefits.
You won't qualify just because you claim housing benefit, council tax reduction, child benefit or Universal Credit.
If you meet the criteria but don't automatically get the payment, you can apply on the government website.
Again, the deadline for this year's scheme was March 31, so those who haven't applied have missed out this time round.
You'll qualify for a winter fuel payment if both of the following apply:
- you were born on or before September 26, 1955
- you lived in the UK for at least one day during the week of September 20 to 26, 2021 – this is called the "qualifying week"
If you did not live in the UK during the qualifying week, you might still get the payment if both the following apply:
- you live in Switzerland or a EEA country
- you have a "genuine and sufficient" link with the UK social security system, such as having lived or worked in the UK and having a family in the UK.
But there are exclusions – for example, you can’t get the payment if you live in Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal or Spain.
Cold Weather Payments
Cold weather payments are a £25 payout given to certain people when temperatures in their area fall below zero degrees Celcius for seven days in a row.
Every residential postcode in Great Britain is linked to a weather station where the temperature is recorded for parliamentary constituencies in that area.
But this scheme also closes on March 31 each year, so despite the current cold snap, no more payments will now be made.
The payments is typically made automatically, and you can check if your area has been eligible if the mercury has dropped.
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